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Home > Cats > 10 Fascinating Facts About Your Cat’s Digestive System 

10 Fascinating Facts About Your Cat’s Digestive System 

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Cats are fascinating creatures with unique and complex internal systems. Your cat’s digestive system is no exception, as it has many qualities that stand out from other animals like dogs or humans. The digestive system includes any organs involved with processing food, such as the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver, rectum, and anus.

This article has plenty of interesting facts about your cat’s digestive system. If you are eager to learn more about your feline friend, keep reading.


The 10 Most Fascinating Facts About a Cat’s Digestive System

1. It Can Take a While for Cats to Digest Food

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Cat’s teeth are developed to slice more than they are to chew. Cats tend to swallow their meals in chunks, and if it is not already ground up, it may take a while to process. On the other hand, cats are small creatures, so the digestive process is not overly long.

On average, it takes 10–24 hours for your cat to digest his meal fully. For context, it takes humans around 2–5 days to digest a meal.

2. Cats Need High Protein

cat eating piece of meat
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It may be hard to believe, but your fluffy, lazy little cat needs a lot of protein. Your cat’s diet should be about 40%–50% protein, and most of that protein needs to come from meat.

That is because cats are obligate carnivores, meaning meat is a requirement of their diet. Cats naturally prey on birds, mice, and other small animals in the wild. Domesticated cats need their diet to closely match that of their wild predecessors, meaning the protein content should be high, and the carbohydrate content should be low.

A cat’s digestive system is not built to process carbohydrates efficiently, and if there is an excess of carbs in your cat’s diet, he may experience some difficulties.

3. Amino Acids Are Essential to a Cat’s Health

two grey kittens eating together
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Much like meat, some amino acids are necessary for your cat’s diet. Cats do not develop many of their own amino acids and thus rely on their diet to acquire them. Two of the most important ones are taurine and arginine.

Taurine is essential for the health of your cat’s eyes, heart, and reproductive systems. For kittens, taurine is a vital part of growth and development. Your cat can create very small amounts of taurine but nowhere near enough to sustain himself. If your cat lacks taurine, he may suffer from eye degeneration, heart failure, reproductive issues, and complications with his central nervous system.

If your cat has an arginine deficiency, he may experience neurological issues that can lead to seizures and even death.

4. Cats Cannot Fast

sick cat vomiting the food
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Wild dogs have been known to fast when necessary, as they have fat reserves that they can depend on. However, cats cannot do the same. Cats are unable to handle large enough amounts of fat for fasting. Instead, the liver begins to shut down. This is called hepatic lipidosis.

Signs of hepatic lipidosis include drastic weight loss, muscle atrophy, and jaundice. Gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, is also common. In most cases, the cause of hepatic lipidosis is unknown, but it can be related to an underlying medical condition like cancer or diabetes. If you suspect your cat is sick, immediately reach out to your vet.

5. Hairballs Can Become Dangerous

cat hairball
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Many cat parents have dealt with minor hairball issues; they are not uncommon digestive problems and are generally not dangerous. However, that does not mean that hairballs are never dangerous.

While most cats will vomit up a hairball, there may be some instances where the hairball remains lodged inside the digestive tract. This can cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal system, which needs to be treated as soon as possible.

If your cat frequently vomits and cannot pass any food, there is a good chance he has a hairball or another obstruction. Reach out to your vet right away if you suspect this is the case.

6. Cats Have 30 Permanent Teeth

cat showing teeth
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Cats have 30 permanent teeth, while humans have 32 and dogs have 42. Cats have significantly fewer teeth than dogs due to the lack of grinding molars in cats. A cat’s teeth are more designed for capturing and tearing at prey.

A kitten’s teething process is quick. Teething will start when the kitten is around 10 weeks old. When the kitten reaches 6 or 7 months, all 30 permanent teeth will have developed and emerged.

7. Different Feeding Schedules Will Have Different Results

Bengal cat eating
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Some of the most common feeding schedules for cats are offering them two scheduled meals per day or allowing them to free feed.

With two scheduled meals, most cat owners offer the meals in the morning and evening. This is helpful for maintaining weight, monitoring food intake, and noting any dietary or behavioral changes. With free feeding, a bowl of food is always around for your cat to nibble on, and some cats prefer small but frequent meals.

Two meals per day may cause your cat to be hungry in between meals, and if you cannot commit to a consistent schedule, it will only cause him stress. On the other hand, free feeding may lead to overeating.

In the end, only you can discover the perfect balance for your cat. Finding the proper routine for your cat will help to minimize digestive problems.

8. Digestive Issues in Cats Have Common Symptoms

yellow vomit on a light wooden floor and a cat
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Digestive problems in cats may be obvious, but they may also be hardly noticeable. Knowing which symptoms to watch out for can help you catch the signs of a gastrointestinal issue much quicker.

Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, a drastic change in eating habits, or weight loss. Your cat may also experience dehydration and fever. Abdominal pain or enlargement is another possibility, so pay attention to your cat’s tummy. As with most illnesses or pain, your cat’s personality may change.

9. Cats Can Be Fussy Eaters

cat not eating the food
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This may not shock some cat owners, but cats can be a bit finicky about their food. Cats are sensitive to tastes, textures, and smells in their food. If your cat refuses to eat his food, first rule out the possibility of an underlying medical condition. Once you verify that there is no health issue causing his pickiness, you can start to look for something he will like.

For instance, if your cat refuses to eat certain textures of food, experiment with recipes from several manufacturers until you find one he enjoys. Each company’s kibble will have a slightly different texture, composition, and hardness.

10. Cats Cannot Taste Sweetness

orange and white cat eating on an elevated feeder
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Although some cats seem more food-motivated than others, all breeds will choose savory meals over sweet ones. Cats cannot taste sweetness the way that we do because they do not create the protein needed to recognize sweetness. Cats (domestic and wild alike) are the only mammals that cannot taste sweet food.

However, cats can taste something we can’t: adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is a compound that provides energy to living cells and is often found in meat.



Cats have fascinating digestive systems. Whether you wanted to learn more about cats due to simple curiosity or a desire to know your cat even better, we hope you found this article satisfying. The more we, as cat owners, learn about our feline friends, the better we can care for them.

Featured Image Credit: Stefano Garau, Shutterstock

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